To the Giller Foundation: Cut Ties with Genocide

July 10, 2024

To the Executive Director, Board and Advisory Council of the Giller Foundation:

We, the undersigned, have made the decision to withdraw our books from consideration for the 2024 Scotiabank Giller Prize, and to refuse participation in all programming or promotions associated with the Giller Foundation.

As authors, we cannot abide our work being used to provide cover for sponsors actively investing in arms funding and Israel’s ongoing genocide of Palestinians. We cannot abide the Giller Foundation’s attitude to Palestine solidarity since November 2023: the criminalization of protest, and the silencing and discrediting of their own authors who have stood in solidarity with community organizers and Palestinians.

As long as the Giller Foundation continues to receive funding from ANY sponsors who are directly invested in Israel’s occupation of Palestine, it will still be complicit in genocide.

Our demands to the Giller Foundation are as follows:

  • Use their organizational leverage to pressure their main sponsor, Scotiabank, to fully divest from Elbit Systems
  • Cut ties with all funders directly invested in Israel’s occupation and genocide in Palestine, including the Azrieli Foundation, Indigo, and Audible

Scotiabank

The 2023 Giller Gala was disrupted in order to spotlight Giller’s lead sponsor Scotiabank’s $500 million investment in Elbit Systems, an Israeli weapons manufacturer responsible for the Hermes drone, cluster bombs, and white phosphorus used against Palestinians. Following this disruption, a support letter signed by over 2000 authors, and months of organizing by authors, artists and cultural workers, Scotiabank has halved its stake in Elbit, representing a divestment of nearly $250 million. Despite these major organizing gains, Scotiabank continues to have millions invested in Elbit.

The Azrieli Foundation

The Azrieli Foundation takes its name from David Azrieli, who participated in the Nakba, serving in the Seventh Brigade of the Zionist paramilitary organization Haganah. The Azrieli Group continues to conduct business on settlements in the occupied West Bank through their gas station chain Sonol— settlements deemed illegal under international law.

The Foundation itself has donated millions of dollars to organizations like Birthright Israel Foundation of Canada and United Israel Appeal of Canada— organizations whose missions to promote “immigration to Israel” expand the Zionist settler colonial project. In 2011, the Azrieli Foundation donated to far-right Zionist group Im Tirtzu, which has been characterized as “fascist” even by Israeli courts, under a stated mandate to "stop the academic boycott of Israel."

Indigo

Indigo is controlled by Gerald Schwartz and Heather Reisman, who fund the HESEG Foundation. HESEG provides incentives in the form of scholarships for non-Israeli citizens — also known as “lone soldiers” — to serve in the IOF to displace, terrorize and kill Palestinians. Reisman also co-founded the anti-Palestinian advocacy group Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), and is a major donor to Hillel Ontario, a Zionist student organization on school campuses.

Audible*

Audible is owned by Amazon, which partners with the tech company Palantir. Palantir CEO Alex Carp claims he has lost employees over his vocal and public support of Israel’s military response to Gaza — in other words, his support of genocide. Palantir has also provided information about undocumented people living in the U.S. to its Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE), powering immigration raids, deportations, and police surveillance.

This week, Elana Rabinovitch, executive director of the Giller Prize, issued a statement to the Globe and Mail saying that they are working on “a solution that will support the foundation, the prize and all authors.”

To be clear: we will not be content with half-measures. Our goal is to truly win an arts and culture sector free from arms funding. Arts institutions cannot launder their moral reputations with empty statements calling too late for a ceasefire, or toothless guarantees that they will support authors’ free speech and right to protest.

We urge our peers and other authors to join us in withdrawing their work and their labour from the Giller Prize and Foundation– until such time as all our demands are met. We remember that our cultural institutions need us more than we need them. Giller may try to censor us, to contain us, rather than listen to our demands– but our resolve and our momentum will only keep growing. We will not be ignored.

*On July 10, in response to the release of the letter, Audible clarified that their partnership with the Giller Prize had ended in 2023. As of the letter’s release date, Audible was still listed on the Giller Prize’s website as a sponsor.

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If you would like to sign on as an author with a 2024 Giller-eligible release, or as a former Giller-affiliated author, please email authorsrespond@gmail.com

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Aaron Kreuter, Rubble Children (July 2024, University of Alberta Press)
Adriana Chartrand, An Ordinary Violence (Oct 2023, House of Anansi Press)
Anna Julia Stainsby, The Afterpains (March 2024, Penguin Random House Canada)
Avik Jain Chatlani, This Country Is No Longer Yours (May 2024, Doubleday Canada / Bond Street Books)
Ben Berman Ghan, The Years Shall Run Like Rabbits (May 2024, Wolsak & Wynn)
Canisia Lubrin, Code Noir (Feb 2024, Knopf)
Catherine Hernandez, Behind You (May 2024, HarperCollins)
Colin Barrett, Wild Houses (Mar 2024, Penguin Random House)
Debbie Bateman, Your Body Was Made For This (Oct 2023, Ronsdale Press)
Erin Brubacher, These Songs I Know By Heart (May 2024, Book*hug Press)
Fawn Parker, Hi, It’s Me (Sept 2024, McClelland & Stewart) and 2022 Giller longlist (What We Both Know)
Farzana Doctor, The Beauty of Us (Sept 2024, ECW Press)
Frankie Barnet, Mood Swings (May 2024, McClelland & Stewart)
Greg Rhyno, Who By Fire (Apr 2024, Cormorant Books)
Hollay Ghadery, Widow Fantasies (Fall 2024, Gordon Hill Press)
Jacob Wren, Dry Your Tears to Perfect Your Aim (Sept 2024, Book*hug Press)
Jen Currin, Disembark (May 2024, House of Anansi Press)
Jess Taylor, Play (Apr 2024, Book*hug Press)
John Elizabeth Stintzi, Bad Houses (Sept 2024, Arsenal Pulp Press)
Julie Delporte, Portrait of a Body (Jan 2024, Drawn & Quarterly)
Kazim Ali, Indian Winter (May 2024, Coach House Books)
Lily Wang, Silver Repetition (Feb 2024, House of Anansi Press)
Lydia Kwa, A Dream Wants Waking (Oct 2023, Wolsak & Wynn)
Michelle Winters, Hair for Men (August 2024, House of Anansi Press) and 2017 Giller shortlist (I Am a Truck)
Myriam Lacroix, How It Works Out (May 2024, Doubleday Canada)
Nour Abi-Nakhoul, Supplication (May 2024, Penguin Random House)
RJ McDaniel, All Things Seen and Unseen (April 2024, ECW Press)
Sam Shelstad, The Cobra and the Key (Oct 2023, TouchWood Editions)
Sheung-King, Batshit Seven (Feb 2024, Penguin Random House)
Spencer Gordon, A Horse at the Window (June 2024, House of Anansi Press)
Steven Mayoff, The Island Gospel According to Samson Grief (Oct 2023, Radiant Press)
Sydney Hegele, Bird Suit (May 2024, Invisible Publishing)
Aimee Wall, 2021 Giller longlist (We, Jane)
André Forget, 2022 Giller longlist (In the City of Pigs)
David Bergen, 2023 Giller longlist (Away from the Dead), 2020 Giller shortlist (We the Dark), 2010 Giller shortlist (The Matter with Morris), 2008 Giller longlist (The Retreat), 2005 Giller winner (The Time in Between)
Noor Naga, 2022 Giller shortlist (If An Egyptian Cannot Speak English)
Omar El Akkad, 2021 Giller winner (What Strange Paradise)
Sarah Bernstein, 2023 Giller winner (Study for Obedience)
Shani Mootoo, 2020 Giller shortlist (Polar Vortex), 2014 Giller shortlist (Moving Forward Sideways like a Crab), 2009 Giller longlist (Valmiki’s Daughter), 1997 Giller shortlist (Cereus Blooms at Night)
Thea Lim, 2018 Giller shortlist (An Ocean of Minutes)